A report for the Department for Transport, released in November 2018, very clearly stated that reducing speed limits to 20mph does little for road safety or the environment, and in many cases, it can actually lead to greater pollution and a higher number of accidents.
And yet Mark Drakeford, First Minister for Wales says that Wales needs a default limit of 20mph across all residential roads, because trials in Cardiff and Swansea have shown some evidence that supports the theory of improving air quality, reducing accidents and restoring a sense of community.
When we reported on the story later in the month (November 2018), the conclusion was that the blanket 20mph zones were more about the perception of the neighbourhood, rather than any quantifiable benefit, and perhaps that’s what Drakeford is referring to with his “restoring a sense of community” comment.
Slow and safe
The theory behind 20mph zones is logical; slower speeds give more reaction time, mean less injury in the event of a collision (the campaign group ‘20’s Plenty for Us’ say that you’re seven times less likely to die from being hit by a car at 20mph than you are at 30mph) and lessens pollution through engines not being worked as hard.
With that said, the statistics behind 20mph zones are factual; speeds decrease by less than 1mph, distraction rates increase (either through complacency with the lower speed or constantly checking speeds) and pollution will only lessen under very strict circumstance which is virtually never achieved.
Besides the evidence indicating that 20mph zones don’t actually do much, there’s also the cost factor – millions will be spent to implement the low-speed zones, and unless they’re combined with further measures such as traffic calming, they simply won’t work.
Further still, it’s when you add in these extra traffic calming measures that the pollution levels rise due to the stop & start nature of the traffic.
In amongst the evidence being put forward by the Welsh government is the report by Public Health Wales which claims there would be significant benefit to public health by dropping the limit from 30mph to 20mph; the problem being that the report was released two years before the DfT report stating otherwise.
There’s also the quote from the 20’s Plenty for Us group: “The introduction of 20mph limits in built-up areas has a small but significant impact on vehicle speeds and casualty numbers and when used in combination with other initiatives such as road design, enforcement, new technology and programmes of behaviour change, has the capacity to reduce maximum vehicle speeds towards the 20mph target and thus make major inroads into casualty levels “.
What they’re actually proposing isn’t just a simple lowering of the speed limit – re-education, limit enforcement and road design isn’t the work of a moment, and even with all of that, they’re viewing it as reducing the speed toward the 20mph target, not actually reaching that target.
Safe and sound
Road safety experts at the AA are unequivocally clear: A waste of money, that will rely on taxpayers and motorists to pay for the schemes that could in actual fact be more dangerous than what’s already in place; when the 20mph zones were introduced in England, many of the sites saw an increase in deaths and serious accidents rather than a reduction.
In December 2017, Bath and North East Somerset Council admitted that after introducing 13 new 20mph zones, seven of those 13 saw a significant rise in deaths and injuries, but that they wouldn’t be changing them back due to the cost – £871,000 to introduce, estimated at similar cost to reverse. The question you’d have to ask is how do they justify the decision?
Surely, if they can find £800,000 to ‘save lives’ and lower the speed limit, how can they now say that “actually, what we’ve implemented is causing increased loss of life, but we’re OK with not spending anymore money to rectify that problem”?
Of course, road safety is hugely important, we’d happily support a campaign to help prevent loss of life on the roads, but it has to be more than a whim, not based on an uninformed opinion of politicians that think they’re right because they’re politicians and therefore know what’s best in every situation.
We’ve already seen a huge reduction in rural roads that were once national speed limit because of ‘safety’, and now it seems that yet again, we have to conform with the lowest driving standards of people that would be far happier walking.
Do you think that 20mph zones work? Should they feature more on our road network? Or do you believe that this is just a hairbrained scheme thought up for political gain? Let us know in the comments.
I think the article says it all but it is more the health & safety campaign groups lobbying politicians who are to blame than politicians who think they are responding to a demand. Health & safety campaign groups demand for supposed impovements is in fact making things less safe. It is an example of taking one statistic [accidents at 20mph v 30mph] & ignoring all other statistics because they inconveniently contradict their claims.
If ever proof were needed that politicians rarely pay attention to facts and evidence, instead relying on appealing to people’s feelings and prejudices
What we obviously need is far fewer politicians… then we can spend their expenses on maintaining the infrastructure.
What next ???? A man in front with a red flag .
Don’t even suggest it….
No red flag needed, just continue not repairing roads, either motorists will slow down or their cars will fall to bits.
Does this mean that if you ride your push bike over 20 you will be “public enemy number one”. Of course not, it has to have an engine to be that. More bullshine from our politicians.
The whole nation has witnessed the level of intelligence and the child like behavior of our elected members over Brexit. Mark Drakeford is simply reinforcing this image with his preposterous and idiotic ideas, that will cause national frustration if ever implemented. Spend our money where it is needed, not on hair brained ideas.
Welsh Assembly approved with majority of 0.6 by half registered Welsh voters, so effectively in 1997 just 25% of the registered voters in Wales voted for a Welsh Assembly. What a wise choice that turned out to be.
A HUGE waste of money for people who haven’t a clue and yes! pander to the minorities. Welsh Government LOL
7.5 ton weight restriction nearby totally ignored.
Taffy, 7.5 ton limits are in joke places some times, like the one in Yorkshire near Pontefract, major A road nice big road no reason why but 7.5 ton limit. So in stead of 9 miles from castleford to shafton industry you need to drive 37 mile thro Barnsley. An these pr$cks go on bout environment. Oh plus you shoppers pay the extra diesel I need for this stupidly.
Absolutely! It won’t benefit anyone! But it’s “do as you’re told”, jobsworth, pointless pantomime. So let’s do it. Jesus!
NB; HAREbrained! i.e a small rabbit-like brain, nothing to do with HAIR!
What a bunch of luddites with too much time on their hands. They’ll be wanting a bloke with a red flag walking in front of every car next. They really haven’t got a clue.
Go back to the drawing board Mark Drakeford. If you had enough policeman with power on the streets and applied current speed regulations there would be no reason at all for such a STUPID idea!
And if you are the stupid man who is pushing for a second referendum before the first has been completed then you are being anti democratic and should been thrown out at the next election.
The 20mph zones simply do not work, purely because there is no enforcement. Mr Drakeford is well aware of the lack of policing, and would obviously not want the additional expense of speed cameras. In my area (where a 20MPH zone exists) it is common for M/cyclists and vehicles to travel at 50mph plus.
Currently, local authorities are investigating schemes to improve clean air, but with 20mph in every street, pollution will increase with the use of lower gears to comply.
Perhaps the hidden agenda is for us to walk everywhere !!
It’s so you don’t hurt the sheep.
The 30 mph speed limit was introduced more than 80 years ago when brakes were operated by rods and before the introduction of hydraulic braking systems. The modern car is well capable of being stopped in significantly shorter spaces. No currentcar can be driven in tip gear at 20 mph and the increased fuel consumption incurred at 20 mph in second or third gear is mind-boggling. Pollution is significantly increased.
Cars have inproved technologically, but the attention span of the pedestrians has got worse with 99% having their heads down, eyes glued to their mobile phone screens texting etc and/or oblivious to the sounds of approaching cars as they have earphones/headphones on. Couple that with the arrogant nature of quite a few who just step out onto the road without a care in the world or that they have more right than a car to be on it.
All are potential accidents waiting to happen.
Green Cross Code anyone ?
Same people also drive cars.
No it’s not, in fact if you drive at 30 in third gear you can slow and speed up without the brakes and not labouring the engine. I was sceptical about this but now I do it myself and if I take the wifes car I get it up from 37 to 43 mpg in town. Oh an we have a few 20 zones too.
I have to change down to third gear to drive at 20 miles per hour. Consequently the engine is running faster and pouring out more pollution. Where;’s the sense in that?
2nd gear safer as you will have little control over your vehicle at 20 mph in 3rd. Take your foot off the accelerator in 3rd at 20 mph and little will happen, if in 2nd gear at least you would start to slow down before your foot hits the brake. I nearly always drive in 3 rd gear in a 30 mph limit for that same reason.
Depends entirely on the car, far to generalised. Besides, most new cars are autos in some sense and many have 8 speed gearboxes.
Most cars are autos….Where did you get that fact from ? More importantly not everyone can afford to buy a new car..this year next year or even 5 years from now !
I tried that…the engine revs its nuts off and creates double the polution …. exactly as has been stated in a ptevious post !
Gmann, a laboured engine will use more fuel than a free revving one. Don’t assume that revs mean more pollution. When you labour the engine the injectors put in the same amount of fuel as at higher revs to over come the work your asking it to do. This also leads to unburnt fuel in the exhaust, so more pollution then it been burnt completely this is when you see puffs of black smoke behind a diesel engined car.
Right enough. If anyone did any data logging of diagnostic data, they’d realise that the ingested air quantity doesn’t change by much when using a lower gear.
Ironically, a lower gear means higher gas velocities in the engine which means better swirl and squish but losses due to throttle are higher which means it roughly balances.
The high gear-low revs ethos is so 1980s.
Unfortunately you have just failed your Ministry of Transport driving test!
Maybe you’ll avoid knocking a child down!
Sorry! Top gear, not tip gear,
Just throwing this in: silent electric bikes and cars that you don’t hear coming, don’t need cogging down, don’t pollute and have greater range with lower speeds.
The whole motoring landscape is about to change. Soon you will ask for a driverless car you don’t own to turn up in 5 minutes to take you to a nearby town or whatever. You won’t be that bothered by the 5 minute delay of driving at 20mph, cos you’ll be enjoying a beer.spliff/bj and won’t want to spill any, (or on second thoughts).
Turn up in 5 minutes? Maybe middle of Tuesday afternoon. Saturday night it will be either book a month in advance or stay at home. It’s not commercially viable.
And..if you drink or do drink you can still be charged with being ‘Drunk in charge of a vehicle’ as it is currently the Law that you are still in charge of the vehicle…even if it is ‘driverless’ !
Great he is now considering whether he did the right thing in forming the North Wales Health Board and should it be 2. We already have 30 and 40 mph speed limits but they are not always kept to and as for the 70, try the motorways. Who is going to monitor them yellow boxes per chance.
Where are the references (the actual documents) for each of the points that the author has made?
20 limit has a place for localised areas ie at schools during in and out times. Otherwise I agree with the majority of comments here. Another point worth mentioning is drivers swerving across the road to avoid speed humps.
I do that, simply because it saves wear and tear on steering, tyres, etc….
Most cars can straddle 99% of the dam stupid speed humps…umless you drive a Smart car ot similar…thats when you find out they purposefully designed them to ‘launch’ them into the nearest hedge/wall/barrier or whatever.
Before these 20 mph limits into force?, they need to sort out the potholes through out Wales’s and the UK and Scotland?.
Theses potholes are costing the motorists expensive repairs and some cases serious accidents?🤔,
We the motorists are paying VAT/ Duty @ the pumps and then hit with excessive Road Taxes?.
Our roads are so dangerous and should be signed with you use these roads at your peril?.
Uneven surfaces / potholes ahead 😉🚨
For Road Tax read Vehicle Excise Duty!
Kris posted Road Taxes, NOT Road Tax. There are many different forms of taxes imposed on us to drive on our roads apart from VED. As for straddling speed humps, I always try to put one side, usually offside wheels over the middle of the speed humps, just think what continuously straddling them can do for your steering geometry.
You can implement all the 20mph zones you like… but unless you have some kind of enforcement then its useless.
We have miles of 20pmh roads in Manchester and drivers continue to roll along at the old 30mph limit.
As another example of idiot politicians… speed humps were installed on a local road on the premise of 7 pedestrian vs vehicle accidents in the last few years. On checking the details all accidents were the fault of the pedestrian (one being the local priest!).
Didnt I also read over the weekend that the numbers cycling in Wales fell by around 15% in the past few years…. there another waste of money for you.
Lets save lots of money and close the welsh assembly?
Yet another example of politicians acting based on opinion rather than fact. Let’s get the well-informed and responsible lobby groups such the RAC Foundation and AA to go into action to challenge this well-intentioned but ill-informed and ill-advised political initiative
Despite the published evidence, 20 mph limits are still enforced in Bath with the use of camera vans. Check the weekly courts list in Somerset Live and you will see fines amounting to hundreds of pounds. In adjacent Wiltshire they aren’t enforced and the official line is that they are only advisory. It’s a shambles.
If the 20 sign is a black on white disc edged in red it is MANDATORY and you could, in theory, be prosecuted.
A good idea if they are regularly policed ! 20 mph limits now in force do not appear to be policed at all anywhere
I live in an area that is in a blanket 20 mph zone. I agree that in a built up area it does give more reaction time but, if like me you drive at 20 mph, to conform with the speed limit, you are tailgated everywhere you go because there is NO enforcement.
SOME HOPES OF MY CAR BEING MORE EFFICIENT AT 20MPH THAN 30MPH!
AT 20MPH MY AUTOMATIC IS HAPPIER IN 1ST OR 2ND GEAR AND STRUGGLES IN ANY HIGHER GEAR. AT 30 MPH I CAN GET INTO 4TH OR 5TH GEAR USING FAR LESS FUEL AND RESULTING IN A GREAT DEAL LESS POLLUTION .
WHERE DO THESE POLITICIANS GET THEIR IDEAS FROM?
Here in Alness in the Scottish Highlands they have introduced a 20mph zone but on all the roads with these restrictions I cannot find any evidence of pedestrian casualty’s so why has it been introduced, large lorries also use these roads and belch out more pollution. The Highland council are heavily in debt but must have spent a great deal of money on signage so why?
Fixated, that’s the word. Must have 20, even though all evidence proves it makes things worse. Like the labour party’s fixation with increasing taxes. They’re going to do it, even though it is proven that it reduces the tax receipts and makes society poorer.
When first introduced in Sheffield, 20mph speed limits produced huge accident savings. They were used only on roads or in areas with high child pedestrian injury rates. One case I recall was a child emerging from a side road on a bicycle was hit by a car and slightly injured. Just about identical to an accident before traffic calming when the child was killed. And that boy was not the only one to be killed on that short length of road before the traffic calming. In those days though, the DfT would only permit 20mph speed limits if they were combined with self enforcing measures which usually meant road humps.
While responsible for many traffic calming schemes I sometimes wonder how much they have all cost to install and maintain and what would have been the outcome if the money had been put into Police enforcement. The Police can’t be there all the time of course, but prosecutions would presumably have had a wider effect and those who are prepared to adhere to speed limits wouldn’t have to drive over hump after hump. But all too late now, at least for me.
The only humping I want to do is on a side road
Why not go the whole hog and go back to a man walking with a flag. Its ridiculous 20Mph just makes drivers lose attention and increases pollution. 30 is just fine.
Because of draconian road laws, enforcement cameras everywhere, big brother dash-cams and idiot Police/politicians, I have decided that I will enjoy my motoring how I want to and if I get caught, etc, I’ll just put the financial penalties down to the cost of motoring.
nobody will respect politically biased blanket speed limits which are not backed by any decent reason.
Actually reducing limit to 20 INCREASED number of accidents
Vehicles being driven in second or third gears pollute the atmosphere up to 50% more than when travelling in fourth or fifth gears. No wonder children in built up areas are experiencing lung problems.
Simply another way to fine motorists. Cathedral Road in Cardiff is now a 20mph zone. Cameras have already been used to enforce it. However as I drive along it at 20 mph I regularly get passed on the inside by cyclists. The road also has 2 raised crossings which are directly positioned by side streets. On a number of occasions cyclists and joggers have come from the side streets and gone straight across the crossing without stopping. I pity the motorist who one day will be involved in an accident on one of the crossings as even though it may not be there fault, they will be quoted the out of date Highway Code which will ultimately make them responsible.
Why do you use a US Speed Limit sign on a UK website?
A journey that takes one hour at 30mph will tahe an hour and a half at 20mph. If every car journey on residential road is extended by the imposition of slower speeds, the consequence will be a significant increase in congestion, which is a risk factor in its own right. While well-intentioned, this proposal is over-simplistic.
I think people should stop trying to constantly wrap everyone in cotton wool and bubble wrap , as a species we’re not aloud to grow and experience life , toughen up through life’s experiences , get real with all this pampering and molicodling , let people learn by experience.
That would be allowed.
Well, it is Wales. Not really much to say.. I mean, as far as I can remember, even their internet is steam powered.
To be honest. I give up. There’s always some left wing, lilly liveried do gooder environ mental person, who wants to put their spoke in. If you don’t want to get run over. Don’t run across the piggin road from between two cars, or ride a bike at night with no lights. On your way to school, control your feral kids, and don’t always blame the poor driver whin your little tommy decides it’s a good idea to run across the road without warning. I could go on, but what’s the point.
Always thought lowering the speed limit to 20mph was a very bad idea. Some people just will not listen to the evidence and these people run our lives. Unintelligent and irresponsible! Fire the lot of ’em I say.
Absolute nonsense! Of course 20 mph down sidestreets is much safer. It’s not rocket science!
No, it’s the risk reduction of death by accident or the certainty of death by increased pollution but that accident risk reduction requires 100% adherence without which the accident risk can go up. A car traveling at 30 in the 20 for whatever reason and however rare covers the ground 50% faster than expected by pedestrians and other road users so better if the they are expecting 30 in the first place. 20’s do have a place but less than they currently occupy and only for short periods, where there is a certainty that it will work and can be enforced. e.g. schools.
Never let the facts get in the way of trying to get votes!!
This really winds me up. If these ivory tower parliamentarians actually want to get traffic to improve road safety, 1st make speed limits realistic for the road, use 25’s and 35’s, difference between 20 and 30 is huge. Then make sure drivers know what they are. Make them clear, use repeater signs for all limits, call it 60, not national speed limit, get rid of this idea of distances between lampposts for a 30 rubbish and finally on all cameras clearly mark ideally the speed setting they are on or the actual limit.
Doing these things would be in the interests of road safety, not doing is in the interests of raising cash.
Excellent ideas @Mike.
I have been out of the UK for many a year and on occasional returns find it a nightmare driving with all the road architecture, speed humps, other traffic calming measures, eyes glued to the speedo so u don’t transgress 30mph. I have read somewhere that even 1mph over the limit will be fined now. I was taught to drive to the road conditions, can’t expect the current crop of politicians to understand that having seen the performance in HoC of late.
Here in S Africa we have 60kph and 40kph in town, and if you stick to 40kph you are hooted at and sworn at.
I agree that 20mph zones are less safe as drivers tend to watch the speedometer rather than being able to concentrate on the road and surroundings making it more likely to be involved in an accident. Emissions increase where traffic calming is also present and for a longer period of the transit.
Traditional speedometers should be replaced with digital ones as they are easier to see from a peripheral view and therefore aid with more concentration on the road!
This article woefully misrepresents the report. The report ACTUALLY says that there is NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE in the safety outcome, and that the 20mph zone guidance REMAINS VALID.
If you think a 20mph zone causes delays (as some commenters seem to think) – then remember that your average speed is nowhere near the maximum permissible speed on the road. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, then it doesn’t matter whether the speed limit is 20mph or 70mph – you’re still stuck. However the 20mph limit makes it feel a lot safer for other road users on foot and on cycles, which reduces the number of other cars you have to contend with.
“This study has found no significant safety outcome (in terms of collisions and casualties) in residential areas, based on the post implementation data available to date. ”
“Based on the findings of this study, the guidance set out in DfT Circular 01/2013 remains broadly valid. This states that where there is expected to be a positive effect on road safety and … traffic authorities should consider implementing area-wide 20mph limits…”
[…] and found 17 stretches of motorway where drivers averaged speeds below 30mph—less than the speed limit for residential areas […]